Ngawa Tibetan And Qiang Autonomous Prefecture, Day 6: Songpan To Zoigê Grassland

After one third of the journey, I discovered that I was able to buy a ticket, make a reservation, ask for directions, order food, etc. with my basic Chinese.

Though the bus departed at 10:00AM, it reached Zoigê Grassland aka Ruoergai Marsh at 12:30PM. As I was at a higher place than Songpan, I saw no trees, only grass, goats, yaks, and tents which reminded me of Tagong Grassland in the Garzê Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture.

I thought I would be here at 2PM. Luckily, I had enough time to find out the bus to Langmusi at 2:30PM also passed Huahu/Flower Lake. So I bought the ticket for 21 yuans (26 and we could go to Langmusi).

A woman took us to their hotel. 4 of us shared the 2 bedrooms in a room. I didn’t feel at ease but I hope I could sleep tonight.

I then found a big restaurant where many people was having lunch. I decided for a bowl of beef noodles. Hmmm, too much noodles and too little beef. Too salty as well.

We strolled around the bus station as we waited for the bus. Zoigê had something that reminded me of Kangding, maybe because it wasn’t as dull as I had thought. It had so many uptown-like stores. Maybe I was the first Vietnamese to have been to this town.

It took us 45 mins on the bus to be at the so-called Ruoergai Wetland National Nature Reserve. Because it was rather late, I was worried of the bus going back, I asked some travelers to find out how much time needed for this place. It took me 2 hours instead of 1.

It was so cold and windy here (8-9 degrees celsius) despite sunshine, with not many flowers to see. If I were here in late July (as my initial plan), flowers would be in full bloom. However, I’d never seen so many gesanghua in the wild like in here.

When I was walking and waiting at the gate, I found out there was no bus back to Ruoergai. The taxi driver from Langmusi didn’t accept the bus fare. We went back to Ruoergai with 100 yuans.

Finally, I had a normal rice meal with eggs and tomato soup which cost me only 5 yuans.

Garzê Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Day 10: Garzê Hiking

We climbed a mountain across a river from 8 AM to 4 PM. We started very early when there were clouds over them, but when we reached the top, it was all sunny. My big toes didn’t hurt me much like the hike in Kangding. My feet surely preferred walking on the grass to on the rocks.

Was it the first time I crossed a hanging bridge? Alex wrote about it, “When a way begins that way, it can’t be bad ! The flow of the river was very strong, and the bridge was moving a bit under the steps”.

The sky was clear. The sun shined directly on us. I got sunburned on my hands where they were exposed to the sun. Alex’s neck was so red. We spent about half an hour on the top of the mountain chatting. I didn’t really wanna go down at all. Why was life made of choices? I was thinking hard almost every hour that I could live here in Sichuan forever and didn’t wanna come back to Vietnam. I preferred Ganzi than the Tagong Grassland.

Alex was very nice today, letting me walk slowly without rushing me. Each of us had 2 ice creams on the way back. I was breathing in ice and breathing out cream to encourage myself that the way wasn’t so long.

On the way back, we met a group of Tibetan women. They must be peasants. They were resting on a carpet or something like that and invited us to have some tea. As usual, they thought I was Chinese, but I explained that I came from Vietnam. They probably didn’t know where Vietnam was. I tried to talk to them in Chinese. Must have been the day when I spoke so many Chinese sentences.

We also met Gal on the way back. The Israeli guy said tomorrow he would go to Litang.

Had dinner by Alex’s choice like he did in Danba. But the food today wasn’t that good. It was too spicy for me.

Ganzi had a lot of barbecued carts on the sidewalks. We had beer with some barbecued food in front of a house. I liked it. I saw some Western backpackers copy us.

Back to the hotel, we did some back massage to each other before going to sleep. Those people here treated guests like prisoners. Noise was everywhere. It was hard to sleep well. I had a dream. I dreamed way too much in China than in Vietnam.

I heard fireworks again. Unluckily, there were no stars in the sky at night.

Garzê Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Day 8: Zhonglu Tibetan Village

As the hotel owner told us to go to the Zhonglu Tibetan Village at 8 AM, we went downstairs on time. However, we had to wait for 1 hour for an Aussie couple.

The Aussie couple were old, but they were nice. They talked to us a lot, about their trips to Eastern Europe and Mongolia, and many things else. Alex even talked to them about his robot work and science.

I liked the hike today a lot. The sky was clear. It was sunny. I preferred the sun to the clouds. I envied the Aussie woman who told me she moved out of London at 21 and traveled a lot. I wish I could travel that much.

We got back to Danba around 1:30 PM then went to see what I thought the famous Suopo Watchtowers. Didn’t cross a dangerous bridge because it was unlikely that we could climb those watchtowers. We talked to a young Austrian couple on the way back to the hotel.

On the road to the center in the evening, a Chinese guy came talking to me in English. He said he was traveling from Hunan and was studying architecture. A nice guy indeed. He also showed me where to buy a mosquito racket. Actually, I didn’t intend to buy any. Just wanted to make Alex see it.

Met a Western guy who speaks Chinese at the hotel lobby. I told Alex, “I so love him” and Alex said he spoke Vietnamese very well, too. “The point is that you don’t love me.” The Western guy helped us with info of where to stay in Ganzi. He said he was married and living in the north of Beijing. His wife is Chinese. Alex joked, “I want his wife.”

I missed the fireworks due to my shower. Then Alex told me it might be fireworks from a wedding or so.

Though the hotel was modern, Danba was a nice mixture of Chinese and Tibetan. I loved life here very much. I didn’t wanna go to anywhere else or go back home. Maybe after a wild and rainy Tagong, Danba made me feel a lot better.

Garzê Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Day 7: Tagong Grassland To Danba

We got up very early, then packed up and went downstairs. At 9 or so, we checked out. At 10 AM, we went out to find a bus or minivan to Ganzi. There was none. Even though it rained, many people didn’t leave Tagong. Maybe they all headed to the horse festival somewhere.

So we changed our plan to go to Danba instead. Cost us a lil bit too much. Alex accepted 70 yuans each regardless of my objection. We waited until 1 PM for the minivan to Danba to start. And then they moved us to another bus. Damn! The road to Bamei was awful, but fun. I met a Vietnamese Chinese there. He was trying to talk to us, but unluckily, we didn’t understand.

The road to Danba from Bamei was awesome. There was no tunnel but it was cool. I liked roads where one side was a mountain and the other was a river.

We ate noodles for dinner. I had to signal for the cook not to put chili into my bowl. Alex liked the kind of noodles there. I, on the contrary, didn’t!

Back to the hotel, we watched Jet Li’s movie on the TV. We only saw the ending part which featured some fighting between Jet Li and others.

Garzê Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Day 6: Tagong Grassland

We woke up early at 6:30 AM, had some peanuts for breakfast, then trekked the Tagong mountains with my sandals. I have to admit that my sandals were not made for going on dam places like these grass fields. Sometimes, I had to jump over or Alex had to carry me to pass. He was kind enough to do so.

Because of rain yesterday evening and night, there was water everywhere. Anyway, I tried to keep up with Alex. We couldn’t cross the river, that’s why we made it a long way to the top of a hill. Because the path was so small, I decided that my health and fear of heights weren’t good enough for trekking more. My speed must have restrained Alex because he wanted to do a big round passing several mountains. Without me, he could enjoy his trek even more. I parted ways with Alex and found my own way to go back to the hostel.

The way down was scary. I was very proud to stand alone on the top of the mountain, but then looking down made me frightened. I was scared of heights. There was no track, and the way was steep enough I had to walk very slowly and choose a good place to step on. At least, I wasn’t scared of snakes because there was no bush here. The fright didn’t go because after the mountain came the big field with muddy areas. And I saw some vultures whose voice scared me all the more. I nearly ran pass that field because I was afraid of becoming “the elephant of Tran Hung Dao”. After that, the thrill wasn’t over when a lot of guys stared at me on the way back to the hostel. But I decided to ignore them and took a leisure walk back. I left my camera with Alex, so I couldn’t take any pic on the way back.

Alex came back then we had fried rice for lunch with some eggs. The food made me miss my Daddy.

I decided to take a nap for about 1 hour then Alex woke me up (praising my hair under the hoodie coat) and we went to see the golden temple near the town center. Unluckily, there was no way in, so we went to the Lhagang Monastery instead. This is the monastery near our hostel. We bought the tickets but dammit, the place was under reconstruction, we couldn’t see many things.

Alex got a lil bit sunburned on his face, but I still encouraged him to trek the mountain behind the monastery. At 3:00 PM, I went back to the hostel watching a movie and waited for Alex. He was so strong. I envied him.

I was the first person that marked on Vietnam on the world map in this hostel. I was so proud of myself.

P.s.: Later, Alex told me that Tagong was his favorite place on our trip.
P.p.s: THIS PART I WROTE WHEN I GOT BACK HOME:
“Having been to Tagong Grassland is like having been to Lhasa.” That’s a nice saying I need in order to get rid of my fear of Tagong’s mountain trekking.

Garzê Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Day 5: Kangding To Tagong Grassland

I got up early. Knowing that Alex didn’t have a good night sleep the day before, I didn’t wake him up. Waiting bored me so I decided to go down the hill to buy some dumplings.

Yesterday, I wanted to try the cable car, but today I had to cancel it because Alex woke up late. Thinking that his reading of comic books was very boring, I dragged him down the hill again to buy some ice creams. Ice creams here were effing good.

We checked out of the Zhilam Hostel and waited for the bus at the Princess Bridge. The bus came on time, but the Israeli guy Gal wasn’t. He must have been going to somewhere else. We had to leave him behind.

The bus reached the Tagong Grassland at 5 PM. We passed some places where there were clouds outside the small bus. I dozed off sometimes so couldn’t enjoy the view much.

Like in Kangding, we stayed in another dorm room but with more people. Though the hostel was operated by a Tibetan family whose living room was shared with the guests, there was no curtain in the dorm room this time so a guy heard of my Vietnamese talk with Alex. Then I learned that he spoke Vietnamese, too. He was a Vietnamese Danish guy. He was very nice and as old as the Israeli guy, 22 years old. He said he was studying Chinese. He also knew how to speak many other languages. He understood Vietnamese, but couldn’t speak much. I joked with Alex that Vietnamese was no more our secret language here. We spoke a little Vietnamese in Kangding.

Even though I was tired, I still walked around to find some peanuts and stuff to hang clothes in the room.

We had dinner at a place with an English menu, and bought some Coke. We met the Gal and his gang here. They were so noisy that they ruined my mood to eat.

Was clueless if there would be a horse racing festival tomorrow. But I already told my friend that I didn’t wanna ride any animal. I won’t ever do it in my life, I guess.

P.s.: Tagong’s altitude is said to be from 3,700m.

Garzê Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Day 4: Kangding

In the hostel, I heard that there was no bus to Garzê aka Ganzi. After discussing, Alex chose to go to Litang instead.

And then he decided to trek the mountain behind the hostel. We headed downhill for some food like Chinese pizzas, then went up to begin our journey. I didn’t know that it would be so hard to hike up a mountain. I was so surprised by Alex’s health. He might look like a nerd, but he was indeed a sportsman. We made it to the top around noon. The feet were like stone in my mouth, but I felt so happy and proud of myself somehow.

I was wrong again to think that going down was easier. The shoes hurt my big toes too much that I felt nothing at my feet on the latter half of the journey. Somewhere along the line, I couldn’t stand no more and decided to walk barefoot despite Alex’s objection. What a relief! One hour of walking barefoot was a lot of ease to me.

I intended to take the cable car in the afternoon, but because of my slow speed, we finished the hike too late, so I decided to delay the cable car visit until next morning.

Before dinner, I watched “The soloist part 2” movie with Alex. We wondered around after that, then hesitated but finally chose a rice restaurant. They served rice with spinach and tofu. We ate on the street, not even the sidewalk. People were staring at us, mostly at Alex, I guessed.

In the end, Alex’s destination moved from Litang to the Tagong because rumor had it that there would be a horse festival the day after tomorrow.

P.s.:
From zhilamhostel.com, I found out the mountain behind the Zhilam Hostel was called Bai Tu Kan. (updated on December 14, 2011.)